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Soft matter physics and bacteria

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Susan Harding.

One of the unsolved problems in human health and disease is the control of pathogens, such as antibiotic-resistant forms of bacteria. In this talk, we will briefly describe two vignettes where soft matter physics-based approaches have been useful.

1) Bacterial biofilms are structured multi-cellular communities that are notoriously resistant to antibiotics. By adapting algorithms from colloid physics, we translate bacteria movies into searchable databases of bacterial behavior and find an unexpected diversity in motility driven by Type IV pili across different bacterial species, including ‘slingshot’ motions that optimize transport in viscous media, and ‘stick slip’ motion with power law behavior reminiscent of self organized criticality.

2) We examine the mechanism of mammalian defensins, a prototypical family of host defense peptides, and show how we can use topology, coordination chemistry, and soft matter physics to construct a set of design rules for antimicrobials that punch holes in bacterial membranes.

This talk is part of the Theoretical Chemistry series.

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